Little Rock, AR – July 1, 2009 – Bulk foods are an average of 35 percent lower in price, according to a recent study comparing retail prices of bulk foods and their packaged counterparts. Bulk foods were lower for all of the 16 foods compared, with savings ranging from 3 percent to 96 percent. Further, the majority of bulk foods compared in the study were organic varieties and their packaged counterparts were often not.
Bulk herbs and spices offered the greatest savings. The most dramatic difference was bay leaves with bulk savings of 96 percent – meaning, on average, packaged bay leaves cost 24 times more than bulk bay leaves. Almost as dramatic was thyme with bulk savings of 87 percent.
While the USDA estimates that packaging contributes an average of 8 percent to the retail cost of food, that percentage is no doubt higher for herbs and spices where a package often costs the food maker – and the consumer – more than its contents. The package costs more to transport as well. Packaged foods were generally more competitive in price in situations where minimal packaging is the norm, i.e. beans, rice and nuts.
The study was conducted at multiple grocery stores in three metropolitan markets. To reduce the impact of price aberrations from market to market, collected prices were then averaged with the suggested retail prices of a leading national food distributor of both bulk and packaged foods. Foods from both natural product and conventional stores were studied. When a store offered more than one brand of a specific product, the lowest-priced brand was used in the study.